THEY seem harmless enough, but batteries, especially button batteries, are among the most dangerous items you can have around your baby and toddler. And since many kids' toys operate with batteries, it's important that parents understand the risks, and take steps to monitor their children when they use batteries. This is especially critical for children who are still mouthing objects.
Safe Kids Worldwide, a non-profit organisation working to help families and communities keep kids safe from injuries, works with an extensive network of more than 400 coalitions in the United States, and with partners in more than 30 countries to reduce traffic injuries, drownings, falls, burns, poisonings and more.
These are their recommendations for battery safety.
Keep them out of reach
Keep items that may contain coin-sized lithium batteries out of reach of children. Little kids love to explore, and when they find something new, what's the first thing they do? Put it in their mouths. Electronic devices are getting smaller, slimmer and sleeker. There are mini remote controls, small calculators, watches, key fobs, flameless candles and musical greeting cards. Kids love to pick them up, play with them and take them apart, often exposing dangerous button batteries inside.
Know the facts
Each year in the United States alone, more than 2,800 kids are treated in emergency rooms after swallowing button batteries. That's one child every three hours. The number is even greater worldwide. The incidences of serious injuries or deaths as a result of button batteries has increased ninefold in the last decade.
Know the dangers
When a child swallows a button battery, the saliva triggers an electrical current. This causes a chemical reaction that can severely burn the oesophagus in as little as two hours.
The scary part is that it may not be obvious at first that there is something wrong, since kids can still breathe and act normally after ingesting a battery, though it may seem like your child has a cold or the flu.
Repairing the damage from battery ingestion is painful and often involves multiple surgeries. Even after a battery is removed, kids can experience terrible side effects to their vocal chords and windpipe.
Keep batteries locked away
Parents should keep coin lithium battery-controlled devices out of sight and reach of children. These include remote controls, singing greeting cards, digital scales, watches, hearing aids, thermometers, calculators, key fobs, etc. Keep loose batteries locked away, or place a piece of duct tape over the cover to prevent small children from accessing the battery.
What if your child swallows a battery?
If you suspect your child has ingested a battery, go to the hospital immediately. Don't induce vomiting or have your child eat or drink anything until assessed by a medical professional. The symptoms may be tricky to recognise (they include coughing, drooling and discomfort), so if you have even the smallest doubt, don't take any chances.